Next week sees the return of the Schools Cup with the U18 and U15 Schools Cup, Plate, Vase, and Bowl semi finals all taking place over the course of the week.
In the U18 Cup there is an opportunity for a repeat of last year’s final, in which Whitgift beat the back to back champions Warwick. Whitgift will be in action away at last year’s Plate runners up, Sherborne, while Warwick, who won back to back titles in 2017 and 2018, will be in action against the 2013 runners up and last year’s U15 runners up, Northampton School for Boys, who are expecting up to 2,000 people in attendance.
In recent years we have been used to the semi finals in the Cup and Vase competitions at both age groups taking place at Saracens’ Allianz Park, and before that at Broadstreet RFC. This year, as a result of funding cuts at the RFU, schools have been asked to host the games themselves.
What impact that will have remains to be seen, certainly in terms of occasion things may feel reduced and it is a shame for individuals to miss out on the opportunity of playing at a major stadium, though on the other hand we will likely see even busier touchlines and a more intense atmosphere – though more likely with a big home slant, it seem unlikely, for instance, that schools will put on coaches to take pupils to another school simply to watch.
Regardless, across all eight competitions and sixteen semi finals these are huge games of schoolboy rugby, the sort that will live in the memory for each and every player.
As for the finals though, they will be taking place in stadia. The Cup and Vase finals will be at Twickenham Stadium on Thursday 19th March, while the Plate and Bowl finals are set to be at Allianz Park on Tuesday 17th March.
Over the coming days we will do previews for each individual competition’s semi finals, here is just a brief look ahead at the schedule for the week and a quick look at some of the key info ahead of each game.
Tuesday 3rd March
Bloxham v Grammar School at Leeds – U18 Plate, 2pm
Bloxham are the holders of the Plate having beaten Sherborne in last year’s final. They only find themselves in the position of defending this title as a result of being unluckily drawn against Warwick in the opening round of the Cup. Similarly Grammar School at Leeds, the 2013 Champions Trophy finalists, who drew St Peter’s York in the Cup and almost won. This is a cracking fixture to kick off the week’s semi final action.
St John’s, Leatherhead v St Lawrence College – U15 Vase, 2pm
It’s an all London & South East clash to kick off the U15 semi final action as St John’s Leatherhead host St Lawrence College in the U15 Vase. Neither has reached the final before so Tuesday will be an absolutely huge occasion for both schools.
Wednesday 4th March
Langley v Newcastle School for Boys – U18 Vase, 2.30pm
Newcastle School for Boys have exuded a feeling of being on the rise for some time now and Wednesday will be their big chance to really show that they have arrived. They have been magnificent on this Vase run but in Langley they face a side that has won this title before, in real style in 2018, and who will be on a real mission after a controversial route to this semi final. That controversy could well galvanize the group and will certainly make this one of the games of the week.
St Edward’s College v Ampleforth College – U18 Bowl, 2pm
Ampleforth are one of the great names in schoolboy rugby, their Rosslyn Park runs in the 80s and 90s are legendary, yet in recent times they have not hit those heights. Wednesday offers an opportunity for them to get back towards that. A trip to Liverpool to face St Edward’s College is no easy task though and the North West side have put away some tough sides on their way and will have no fear of the men from Yorkshire.
Worthing College v Maidstone Grammar – U18 Bowl, 2pm
These two came through what were really pretty tough section to get to this point, a glance at their scorelines from their final regional games tells you just that. Worthing beat Wallington County Grammar 12-7 and Maidstone beat King John 24-17. These two will push each other all the way, undoubtedly.
Ivybridge Community College v Harrow – U15 Cup, 2pm
The first Cup semi final of the week and it’s a massive one as Harrow make the trip to Devon to face Ivybridge. These two had eventful semi finals, a last minute penalty try for Harrow helping them to victory over the previously unbeaten Trinity, while Ivybridge travelled to the reigning champions, Wellington College, and won a tight game 12-8. It is sure to be a huge game, both are outstanding teams, Harrow are on a stunning unbeaten run, but a trip to Ivybridge is a hugely challenging task for any side. This could be one of the games of the week.
Northampton School for Boys v King’s Grantham – U15 Vase, 3.45pm
Northampton’s senior side might be in the Cup and they reached last year’s U15 Cup final, but this year’s crop are in the Vase and are just a game away from yet another Twickenham appearance. Standing in their way though are visitors King’s Grantham, who have been brilliant on this Vase run, including a really well dug out 24-5 victory over Pate’s Grammar in the quarter finals. The latest kick off of the day, this should be a great way to round off a busy Wednesday.
Marling v Warden Park – U15 Bowl, 1pm
This is a massive opportunity for these two schools that do not often get the sort of billing that a semi final spot affords. They were both magnificent in their quarter finals, Warden Park doing fantastically to win 19-0 away at Duke of York’s Royal Military School, while Marling were just in rugby heaven as they hosted Plymouth College and won 50-0, a result utterly in keeping with their form in the Bowl this season, in which the only time they have not reached 50 was a 33-5 victory over Hampshire Collegiate.
Thursday 5th March
Dean Close v Bishop Wordsworth’s – U18 Plate, 2.30pm
These are two heavyweight names that only found themselves in the Plate after Cup defeats in serious games against tough opposition in the form of Sir Thomas Rich’s and Canford. Dean Close have England U18 internationals coming out of their ears, while it is only three year’s ago that Bishop Wordsworth’s were competing at Twickenham in the U18 Cup final. They have both been strong on their way to this semi final and we can expect a massive clash in Gloucestershire on Wednesday, with one outstanding side, whoever wins, heading to Allianz Park for the final.
Stowe v Oakham – U15 Cup, 2.45pm
Two traditionally massive names in schools rugby, and two U15 groups playing scintillating rugby ahead of this second Cup semi final of the week. Neither has won at U15 level but Oakham won back to back U18 titles in 2002 and 2003 and reached the 2011 final. Stowe’s route to this semi final saw them win Midlands B with victories over the likes of Felsted and last year’s U18 and U15 Vase winners, Samuel Whitbread. Oakham meanwhile have come through a seriously tough route, a close game against Trent, then a tight win over Cup legends Warwick, then a one pointer over Cup legends Bromsgrove, before a 17-10 win away at the mighty Sedbergh School in the quarter finals. There is real momentum behind them now, but Stowe are formidable, especially at home.
Stamford v Rugby – U15 Plate, 2pm
If you wanted to know how tough the sections Stowe and Oakham came through in the Cup were, look no further than their Plate equivalents, Stamford and Rugby, who are in the Plate after losing games in those Cup sections back in the first round. These are two undeniable schools rugby heavyweights, fitting names in any grade of semi final, and will surely put on a real show on Thursday afternoon. Keep an eye out for Stamford’s social media, too, which has been providing some of the best insight of any school through this season so far.
John Fisher v Marlborough College – U15 Plate, 2.15pm
Again two massive schools that could easily in another year have been in the Cup semi finals, Marlborough lost out to the champions Wellington College in the Cup opener, John Fisher to Cup legends Dulwich College. They have both shown real grit in getting to this point, Fisher drawing 12-12 in Truro to come though by the most slender margin of all and Marlborough winning 20-17 away at Haberdashers’. So we can expect a high level contest on Thursday, but more than anything we can expect a game full of heart and spirit.
Farlingaye v King Henry VIII, Coventry – U15 Bowl, 2.30pm
In the quarter finals of this Bowl competition Farlingaye had to really show their mettle with a 12-10 victory over Scarborough College, while King Henry VIII Coventry were impressive to beat Calday Grange Grammar 15-0. King Henry’s have had some real contests through the round, sometimes unusual in this competition, including a really tight one against old rivals Bablake. Farlingaye’s route has been a little more traditional, getting progressively harder through the rounds, but expect a big contest on Thursday.
Saturday 7th March
Sherborne v Whitgift – U18 Cup, 2.30pm
There is just the one game on Saturday but boy is it a big one as the U18 Cup finally moves into view with it’s first semi final. It ought to be a spectacular semi final as last year’s Plate runners up, Sherborne, host the reigning Cup champions Whitgift, who are looking to repeat the feat of their 2010 and 2011 sides by going back to back. History is certainly with the visitors, the last time a side did not win at least to back to back titles was 2009, Truro College. Anyone thinking this is going to be simple though is sorely mistaken. Sherborne have more than proved over the course of this season that they are one of the top sides around and are going to be playing in front of a huge home crowd on Saturday afternoon, it is going to be a spectacular occasion. Both have had reasonably light routes to this semi final, but on Saturday the ante is going to be raised beyond belief. As the only game of the day, too, it is going to be absolutely huge.
Sunday 8th March
Northampton School for Boys v Warwick – U18 Cup, 2pm
On Sunday Northampton School for Boys host Warwick in the second semi final in front of what is expected to be a huge crowd of between 1,500 and 2,000 people. They will be doing so knowing exactly what awaits the winner in the final. Warwick are chasing a fourth final in a row, after victories in 2017 and 2018 and last year’s defeat to Whitgift, a feat only achieved by Dulwich College and Colston’s before them. They are utter Cup experts. Travelling to face Northampton School for Boys is going to be so tough though, this is a fantastic group of players with a phenomenal record. They reached the U15 final last year and some of those have moved across it was a third trip to HQ of the decade, having won the U18 Vase in 2016 and reached the U18 Cup final in 2013. Expect a huge atmosphere and an epic contest between these two excellent sides.
Sutton Valence v Wellington School – U18 Vase, 1pm
Prior to that huge Cup semi final, we will have the last of the Vase semi finals as Sutton Valence host Wellington School. Both have looked good on this run and both will be excited about Sunday’s game and will know exactly who their potential opponent at Twickenham will be in the final, with Langley and Newcastle School for Boys getting their fixture done on Wednesday afternoon. That should raise an already exciting atmosphere even further in front of what should be a big Sunday crowd.
Over the next few days we will be posting detailed previews for each of the competitions, U18 Cup, Plate, Vase, Bowl and U15 Cup, Plate, Vase, Bowl as we gear up for five great days of semi final action.
In the meantime, if you have any stories or updates ahead of the semi finals then please to let us know and we will make sure that they feature in our previews – firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @FifteenRugbyXV